If you’re like most women, you’ve only ever heard of tampons and pads as products for managing your period. In recent years, however, you may have noticed a new product in the feminine hygiene aisle: menstrual cups.
Want to know more about this new way of dealing with your period? Check out this complete guide to menstrual cups to learn more about how it works and whether it’s a good fit for you.
What Are Menstrual Cups?
Image via Flickr by menstruationstasse.net
A menstrual cup is a reusable cup made from flexible material. The cup is inserted into the vagina, where it collects the blood that is shed during menstruation. The blood pools inside the cup rather than being absorbed like it would be with a pad or a tampon. Menstrual cups are periodically emptied before being reinserted.
Benefits of Using a Menstrual Cup
If you’ve been satisfied with the feminine hygiene products you’ve used in the past, you might be hesitant to try out a new option. However, there are plenty of benefits to using a menstrual cup that may convince you to make the switch, including:
- Affordable: A single menstrual cup (which usually costs around $30 to $40) can last up to 10 years. Despite the higher upfront cost, this option is much more cost-effective in the long term when compared to pads and tampons, which must be purchased every month when you get your period.
- Eco-friendly: Because the cup is reusable, it’s much better for the environment. Switching to the cup reduces your carbon footprint considerably.
- No products to carry around: If you hate having to remember to stash tampons in your purse or pack extra pads in your suitcase for a trip, you’ll love the convenience of menstrual cups. If you’re expecting your period to start, you need to bring only one product. Once you insert it at the start of your period, there’s nothing to carry around since you’ll simply reuse the same cup.
- Less frequent changes: Tampons and pads have to be changed pretty regularly, possibly even every few hours when your flow is on the heavy side. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, can be worn for up to 12 hours. Plus, the risk of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from a menstrual cup is extremely low compared to the risk associated with tampons.
- Fewer leaks: A menstrual cup is usually capable of holding as much as five times the liquid as a typical tampon. Plus, they create a seal that makes it much more difficult for leaks to develop.
- Safe materials: Many women have become increasingly concerned about how the potentially toxic chemicals and inorganic fibers used to make tampons could affect their health. Menstrual cups are made with hypoallergenic, safe materials that won’t trigger allergies or negatively affect your health.
- Birth control compatibility: Menstrual cups do not interfere with internal birth control devices like IUDs or the birth control ring.
- Period sex: You can have vaginal intercourse while wearing your cup. It doesn’t prevent pregnancy, however, so continue using another form of birth control like condoms if you have sex on your period.
Drawbacks of Using a Menstrual Cup
With all the benefits associated with menstrual cups, it might seem like a no-brainer to make the switch from tampons and pads. However, be sure to consider these potential drawbacks before you do:
- Learning curve: Some women find that it takes a bit of practice to become comfortable inserting and removing their menstrual cup.
- Messy: There likely will be more mess involved when you empty and reinsert your cup compared to using pads or tampons, particularly for new users.
- Fit issues: You need to find the right fit for your menstrual cup or it will not work properly.
- Maintenance: Menstrual cups must be sterilized and carefully stored after each menstrual cycle.
How to Use Menstrual Cups
Inserting a menstrual cup may take some practice to master, but once you have it down, it should be quick and easy. Be sure to review the instructions specific to your cup before you get started.
To insert your menstrual cup, wash your hands and then fold the cup in half. Gently spread your labia with your free hand while inserting the cup horizontally into your vagina, keeping it aimed toward your tailbone. Stop when the stem at the bottom of your cup is ½ inch or less into the vagina. Grab the base of the cup and rotate it to make sure it’s fully open and has created a tight seal.
When you’re ready to remove your menstrual cup, pull gently on the stem until you can reach the cup’s base. Pinch the base slightly to break the seal and pull down to remove it. Empty the contents of the cup in the toilet, and then wash it before reinserting.
Picking Out a Menstrual Cup
Ready to give the cup a try? Make sure you get the right size for your body. Sizes are typically determined by age and whether you’ve had a vaginal birth. Women over 30 and those who have given birth vaginally may need a larger size.
You should also consider how high or low your cervix sits. You can estimate this by inserting a finger into your vagina to see if your cervix is easy or difficult to reach. Longer cups are available for those with a high cervix, while those with a low cervix can opt for a shorter cup.
Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s recommendations when trying to determine the right size for you. Some women need to try out a few cups before finding one they like. In addition, keep in mind that you may want a different cup later on if your body changes over time.
For your wallet, for the environment, and so much more, consider using a menstrual cup to manage your period. If you love convenient options like the cup, you’ll also love Nurx, which offers an easy way to get birth control online without a doctor’s appointment.
For more information and to signup, visit www.nurx.com and follow us @nurxapp on Twitter and Instagram.